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Feature

Unix Futures: Six Vendors Look Ahead

We interviewed six vendors -- IBM, Novell, Red Hat, Apple, HP and Sun -- about their plans for Unix and uncovered some intriguing developments. Read this before you pick an operating system path.

At SCO, It's All About Me

SCO agreed to speak with us for this article, but Sandy Gupta, CTO and VP engineering of the SCO Group, was less interested in discussing OpenServer than in talking up the company's Me Inc., which turns smart handheld devices into "remote controls" for Me Inc. servers. Services run on the Me Inc. server, called an edge processor, and users subscribe to the services through their handheld devices. The heart of the Me Inc. system is its ability to wrap existing applications, say Java or .Net, and make them available from the Me Inc. edge processor through a channel, to an end user's mobile device.

What we did learn about Open Server is that the product is on an 18-month cycle, Gupta says. Service patches are released every three to four months in a cumulative approach, and SCO supports two releases from the current release for about a year. After that, SCO offers an Extended Live Support contract.

Many of SCO's employees are from Bell Labs, and Gupta says the stringent Bell Labs development environment has carried over to SCO. Development is spread over four remote sites, using a source-control system that's synchronized across the sites. For testing along the development cycle, SCO uses a regression test suite that was about 20 years in the making. SCO also tests for Unix 98 conformance.

Engineering and development requirements come from SCO's Product Management team. Product Management is part of marketing, but focuses on product research that highlights high-level trends--for example, the move from a client- server model to network-based services. In addition, regular meetings are held with SCO's channel partners, and analysts, such as IDC, are tapped to figure out where SCO's R&D dollars should go. All this information is funneled from Product Management to engineering where tasks are prioritized.

"Being the CTO, I spend a lot of time with our Product Management and with our customers and with our partners, trying to understand their needs, and funnel that to the engineering team as well," Gupta says.

He adds that SCO sees a large growth area in Southeast Asia, an area where large-scale business automation has not happened yet. It's an interesting focus for SCO because few people in the region have PCs, but many have cell phones on which they are experiencing the Internet for the first time. This criteria provides an excellent area of opportunity for SCO's Me Inc. product, Gupta says.

SCO offers three product lines: OpenServer, which is mainly used for branch automation (think McDonald's), UnixWare, which is used for telephony services, and Me Inc.

The initial release of Me Inc. included two services: Shout, a service that lets users send multimedia messages to individuals or groups; and Vote, a polling service where a poll is sent to a group of users and the results, as responses come back, can be viewed in real time. For endpoints, Me Inc. supports the Palm Treo. In the future, Gupta says the company plans to add support for Research In Motion's BlackBerry and devices that run Microsoft Windows Mobile and Symbian OS.

SCO licenses its Unix for the lifetime of the product, while Me Inc. is sold on a subscription basis, based on the number of users.